Chemistry - Some tactics to captivate

18th May 2012 at 01:00

What the lesson is about

Are we engaging our pupils or simply trying to entertain them? I recently observed a history class where the teacher set fire to a couple of pound;20 notes (counterfeit) in a carefully planned demonstration linked to the Treaty of Versailles, to show how money had become worthless. It was a lesson the pupils are unlikely to forget, writes Sarah Longshaw.

My lab includes changing wall displays of pupils' work and posters from the Royal Society of Chemistry's fantastic "Not all chemists" range. From the ceiling hang balloon models representing shapes of molecules. Music and images can create a hook for the lesson. So can questions. "When faced with a question, we naturally try to answer it; whereas, when faced with a statement, we just read it," says Peter Anstee in the Differentiation Pocketbook.

Having captured their attention, we also need to notice when pupils are drifting and help to re-engage. Try handing out Post-it notes and asking them to write an answer to a potential question. Then put them in pairs and get them to write a question to their partner's answer.

Another favourite, useful for developing extended writing skills, is storyboarding. This works well on subjects such as acid rain, eutrophication and the history of atomic structure. As you tell a "story", pupils record the information as images, not words. They retell the story to a partner, using their images, then write the text beneath. Flow diagrams can be used in a similar way. Both work as the pupils process the information, rather than simply reproducing it.

What else?

Put science on screen with fantastic chemistry storyboard lessons from kirstybotham, can21 and ljb108.

Get creative with chemistry using MagisterArtium's cross-curricular sci- art scheme of work.

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